Defining Health

Written by Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC

There are many definitions of health, and you have the freedom to adhere to the one that works best for you. Some dictionaries define health clearly in physical terms, while others offer much broader definitions that include body, mind, and spirit. Others may define it as being free of disease, or free of pain. How do you define health? 

Health Is Multifaceted

For some, health truly is something that they focus on in terms of their physicality, and that's fine. However, health can encompass many aspects of your life. 

Physical: Of course, the physical is probably what we think of most readily when we consider health. Our bodies are the vehicles that get us around for many decades, so it's natural to think of the body as being healthy or not-so-healthy. 

Mental/psychological/emotional: Mental and psychological health are a huge component of wellness, and many of us seek out therapists, counselors, workshops, support groups, or medications to help us maintain or improve mental health. Meditation and other techniques are also popular in this regard, as is Mindulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and similar avenues of mental wellness. 

Spiritual: In less secular countries like India, spirituality is more openly discussed and considered a part of daily life. In some communities, spiritual health may actually be seen as the root of physical wellness, and areas of special study and practice---like yoga, meditation, prayer, or martial arts---may be relied upon for maintaining or achieving psychological equanimity, and spiritual and mental health. 

And There's More

While body-mind-spirit may be touted as a more integrative way of looking at health, we can't necessarily ignore the other aspects of our lives that contribute to our health. 

Financial health may not be seen as directly impacting our physical health, but those individuals who live in poverty might have a different story to tell.

If you live in an urban "food desert", where grocery stores are non-existent and the only available sources of "nutrition" are fast food restaurants and convenience stores, your financial health is certianly having a direct impact on your physical health, not to mention your mental health and spiritual well-being. 

The environment where you live is definitely impacted by your financial well-being, since you can only live in a neighborhood or home that you can afford. And if you can only afford a one-room efficiency infested with cockroaches and mice, your health will be affected by the insecticides used by the landlord, the noise of the traffic outside, and the levels of danger in the neighborhood, among other factors. 

Social integration and the quality of relationships have been shown to have a direct effect on health. How is your social life, and what is the quality of your friendships and family relations? 

What Else? 

What other factors impact your health? Your work (or lack therof)? Your family dynamics? What else has a direct or indirect bearing on your health (mental, physical, spiritual, etc) on a daily basis? 

Almost everything affects your health, even your thoughts. 

That said, how will you improve your health in 2015?